For several years, Mother’s Choice has been planning to launch a new program called Safe Families, to match young moms and their children with volunteer friends in the community.
We believe that any young mother who wants to parent her baby should be supported to do so. However, many of the teen mothers who “graduate” from our Pregnant Girls Services lack the extended family or community support needed to raise their child. If they are alone and in crisis, they may be forced to separate from their child, placing them into the residential care system.
Ever since we first learned about the Safe Families Model (read “The Journey to launch Safe Families” to find out more about how we got here!), we immediately connected with the idea of surrounding vulnerable families with volunteer community support. Since the start of Mother’s Choice, we have been a volunteer driven organisation, we are proud of the passionate and dedicated community of volunteers around us.
We started our journey by talking to the many caring people in our community who over the years have taken the initiative to befriend young mothers and their children – we talked to them about the joys, the challenges, what kind of training and support they wished they had, and what they wished they had known before they started. We were so inspired by these courageous pioneers, who shared their stories and their hearts for single moms:
“Some young mothers have no one they can trust to look after their baby. If the mother needs to do something, she knows her baby will be safe with me for a few hours.”
“She didn’t have anyone speaking into her life before. But now she knows she has a friend on her side, telling her she can do this, she is brave, she is a good mother.”
“What I like to think is, it’s not a commitment, it’s a potential relationship, and I have an open heart to that.”
Next, we set up the framework – our team mapped out the journey of a family who is looking for community, from referral to matching and how to communicate with her. Then we mapped out the volunteer journey, prepared Information Sessions, training, and screening processes to make sure our volunteers were both safe and equipped to walk alongside a mom and her baby. With amazing support from probono volunteer professionals including lawyers, we set up the infrastructure for people to help.
After the processes were mapped out, we started talking with community partners, including churches, to find our first volunteers who would pilot Safe Families with us. In our first year, we trained over 20 community members and approved 10 Safe Families volunteer units – some individuals, some couples, and some families – from across all generations and all walks of life!
We received referrals of young moms with their new babies from our Pregnant Girls Services, introduced Safe Families and asked if they would like to have a Family Friend walk alongside them. Each mother was different, some moms just wanted a friend who can check in with them, some were looking for advice on caring for their child, and some are hoping for some extra childcare support. For various reasons, these moms don’t have that “village” around them – and so Safe Families volunteers stepped in to become families and friends who would naturally support a young family.
So far, we have matched five moms with friends in the community – and we’ve already seen some beautiful pictures which portray the power of relationship and the impact of friendship.
To quote one of our amazing first volunteers “With Safe Families, we empower a mom to be a mom, to keep her and her child together and not see any more children in the system. It is a great way to love a mom and encourage them to be a family unit.”
This year, we are continuing to grow our local volunteer pool of incredible Safe Families volunteers who see the courage and resilience of young moms, and we are so encouraged to witness a growing community who are motivated by love and are modelling powerful kindness, friendship, and hospitality.
Safe Families volunteers come from all walks and stages of life, we believe that every volunteer has something unique to bring to impact the life stories of future generations of moms and children. We invite you to consider joining us for an Information Session to learn more.